12.27.2007

"I have learned"

My weeks have been so busy, and I am getting further behind in my commitments, instead of getting closer to my goals. So it is time to adjust . . . and not make new commitments until the old ones are completed or expired. My whole being -- body, mind, will -- requires more balance. Sleep, exercise, prayer, solitude . . . without all in proper measure, my relating and doing become distorted and take me the wrong directions. At least I have tasted enough of what it is to walk with God closely (and enough of what it is to not) that I don't delude myself any longer that my own drives are going to satisfy me!

A friend asked me today why I'm not in school yet. She knows how driven I am toward that, and toward certain career goals that will follow. But I can't sacrifice the daily stuff of life and my close relationships to get there . . . nor can I sacrifice my ability to obey daily in my contact with strangers in the marketplace. The command to love others takes time, because it is not a command to warm emotion, but rather to the action of real time and attention when required.

But just think how much Jesus accomplished in three years of public ministry! And think about all the others since then! The power is not ours, but His working through us . . . and so any preparation for ministry and so any giftedness for ministry pale in importance to the simple daily obedience that allows His power to flow through His followers. Ministry really isn't anything other than allowing God to use you as His tool in the lives of others.

And so I can no longer say "I have learned" as though I know TRUTH and possess it. I have tasted TRUTH enough to pursue it and to practice it . . . and the moment I stop pursuing it and practicing it, I stop knowing it. I'm starting to understand that Paul's illustration of power in clay jars is apt, and that transformation doesn't turn my jar of clay into anything stronger, but rather trains me in staying full of His power and His presence by clinging to Him every moment.

I remember asking a friend I respect "How could I have done that!" in agony as I remembered parts of my story, and seriously wanting a response that would help me understand and go forward. I received empathy but no satisfying answer . . . but just gave the core of the answer I have discovered to be true. I will not stop being a sinner until the grave and resurrection, and yet sometimes it is easy to be so full of the Spirit that I imagine I have lost the ability to walk away into my own filth. The truth is that none of us ever lose that ability on this side of the grave. So we shouldn't be surprised by our own sin or the sin of others that we would like to believe are above acting "like that".

The power of the Spirit and the words of TRUTH and LIFE that the Spirit brings forth from good preachers and teachers and writers, and the wonderful evidence of the other gifts of the Spirit that we see in every other Christian who is filled with His power . . . they are from His power, not ours. We truly are just jars of clay, and never stop being the same sinners that needed a Savior that we were when He rescued us . . . not until the grave and our new resurrected bodies.

But the power of the Spirit is just as real as my sin, and it tastes a whole lot better . . . and so, even though I cannot say "I have learned", I can say that I am pursuing and practicing the Spirit-filled life, and every time I slip back into old habits that don't fit His purposes, He pursues me and turns me back to pursuing Him.

And I am a member of a network of others just like me: screwed up sinners who don't really want me to see how screwed up they are, but who are also pursued by Him and learning to keep pursuing Him. And He is at work in our relationships as well as in all of us as individuals, and He uses us to strengthen and encourage each other. And I need you in your giftedness and unique perspective on reality, and you need me, and we need all the others . . .

A lot of resting in Jesus tonight is possible because of your role in my life. I need you. And you need me too. We are joined by Him, and can't go our own directions without injury to each of us as well as to the whole.

Good thing He said the main way we are supposed to obey Him and show that we are His is by loving each other!

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